Monthly Archives: August 2008

assorted strings

I came across some tracks I worked on recently I’d either forgotten about or didn’t know about! I was trying to keep on top of my PPL claims and a good way to find out release info is on discogs.com.

Closer Than Close (Rosie Gaines – Paul Roberts and Paul Birchall mix) I’d never heard completed.

Never heard Thank You Lord (Connie Harvey – Audiowhores mix), but at least I recalled doing the strings for both of those.

Right Where You Are (Amp Fiddler) was a surprise though; I recognise the lines but had no idea it was an Amp Fiddler track! I’d have done this with Dave Jones (Zed Bias) – his sessions were always just a series of backing tracks for various artists. We’d bang out as many as possible in a session. I’m sure he told me who the artists were but it was all a bit of a blur!

Then there was a credit for Do You Want To Be Someone, by The Lazarus Plot. The track is on their myspace and I don’t think they ever contacted me, but what they’ve done is take the copyright free samples and worked them into a track. Excellent! I did those samples ages ago and I’m really pleased they getting some use. (In fact I’m working on a new loops library – should be finished in the next month or so.) The sample is drastically slowed down, so it sounds a bit tatty, but the band is getting loads of good reviews.

Speaking of tatty (or scruffy at least) , I played on a Mr Scruff track last year, produced by Andy Kingslow and recorded at his studio near Sankey Soap in Manchester. All I played along with was a basic backing track but just listen to it now! It’s called Kalimba and it’s on Ninja Tune Records. Mr Scruff – great example of a musician as a brand! Reviews for this are good too, here’s one from The Times, with a big-up for the strings.

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Demos and pitches – my working practice

Demos and pitches are an established part of the music business and for some reason this August has been a busy time for them. Quite a few have come my way this month – pop songs, an Ice show theatre project, a TV movie, a couple of video games, a sample library – a bit of everything.

So for my own sake and for any writer needing some live strings for a pitch, I thought I’d try to clarify how I aim to work.

My maxim has always been, if a project looks interesting, get involved first, sort out money later. If that means working on a pitch without any budget (or simply enough to cover some players) then I try to do it. I can often fit in some recording for a pitch (as long as its not an enormous amount of music) on the back of another session. I take the view that pitches precede jobs, so get involved, and I know how hard a composer will work on a pitch, so the least I can do to help out!

My contact details: pete[at]realstrings.com +44 (0)7958 708661 and on Skype as ‘realstrings’.

Change – tipping points

Change in the music business is a topic that fascinates me, even though I’m not a typical artist or independent music business. I am not actually writing or selling as my main activity. I’m hanging out round the periphery as a service to music writers and producers, but change will still impact on how I operate and where I must look for income.

I picked up the link to Keith Jopling’s blog from Wired, where he offers 5 tipping points over the next few years that will mark significant change in the business of music. Rather like the recent oil price may mark significant change in our travel habits (I wish).

Tipping Point 1: A major global superstar artist goes entirely digital, no more CDs

Tipping Point 2: A record label realises that its global direct-to-consumer business is directly more profitable than with music retailers, and subsequently largely dispenses with low margin wholesaling

Tipping Point 3: A new-entrant retailer really shakes up the consumer offer by aggregating the widest possible group of music assets for sale in one place, at amazing prices

Tipping Point 4: A major label gets multi-right portfolios (previously known as 360 degree deals) working effectively as a standard model

Tipping Point 5: ‘Total Music’ takes hold

And he adds detail to these forecasts on his blog.
He puts these in the context of David Bowie’s lyrics (from the song ‘Sunday’)
“It’s the beginning of nothing. And nothing has changed. Everything has changed”

All of those forecasts seem to be happening already (which is the point of the lyric reference I guess) but he doesn’t mention that the product itself may change, though perhaps this is encompassed in the terms ‘music assets’ and ‘multi-right portfolios’.
As media converges will the stand alone music track be the primary vehicle for music? Video, film and tv seem to be at the top of the tree in ‘complete’ media and it is becoming increasingly easy for anyone to be a moving image broadcaster. (Kyte.tv, blip.tv, youtube.com) Musicians will argue that they should focus on their specialism and leave the rest to someone else – but could that be a collaboration as part of the creation process, so that music (not just background score, but songs) is produced in a community of media makers, just as moving image media is largely a collaborative process already.

Musicians are moving towards this; they are breaking out from their safe-zones of the studio and the stage and starting to blog and broadcast (I’ve been following Shadowkat recently), so my 6th tipping point is that new music is released as an integrated part of a movie or tv show. And as I’m not an industry analyst, I wouldn’t be surprised if this has already happened!

Influences

I’ve used the imeem social networking service to create a playlist of 20 pieces of music that are my greatest musical influences; compositions that I keep coming back to and never lose affinity for, and that I can say have influenced my musical development and identity.

First of all, I still don’t know whether imeem is legal; I’ve linked to some compositions I found on the site and I’ve uploaded mp3s of others from my CD collection. I will, of course, delete any content as required; but as imeem promotes sharing musical taste and (as a consequence) instigating music sales, I hope I am making a positive contribution to the health of the music industry. I even clicked the ‘flag’ link to report myself but this is only to flag up offensive material, nothing to do with the copyright issue!

The choice is not extreme or extraordinary; very moderate, but I don’t have anything to prove! It is diverse but I see certain common threads in many of my choices;

  • the beauty of harmony – the moving power of a progression of chords
  • the flesh and blood of human ensemble – the sound of many people making a great effort.
  • the contrasts of joy and sorrow – the bitter/sweet emotions that make up any great human story.
  • dynamics and shape – the architecture of a composition that takes me on a journey.

WordPress does not currently support embedding the playlist, so click the image for a link to the page.  I guess the artists/composers are more important than the individual tracks; some are on for their use of strings (like Don’t Go Breaking My Heart) or voices (like Take 6).

Jollies 2008

It was summer jollies time for our family and we headed to the Algarve, staying at the Riu Palace. The Riu group really has it nailed – great facilities and the most impressive staff! We’re not talking obsequious service but just great communication and efficiency. They inspire respect from me certainly, though I guess some customers will always complain.
We’d been to the hotel last year, on a cliff top, with a bit of a walk to the beach. This year, the most amazing construction has appeared – the Great Steps of Olhos d’Agua. 302 wooden steps, plus boardwalks, benches and shelters that start by hotel and weave down the craggy cliffs to the beach.

It is the sort of construction that deserves a plaque thanking the people who designed, built and funded it but there is nothing. Maybe it’s not as beautiful as the Millenium bridge but it certainly had me in awe and wishing to congratulate the builders!

Dominic was old enough to take part in the Interaction with Dolphins event at Zoo Marine also.

Teeth and Claws – an analysis

It’s summer and I feel I’ve earned a bit of me time, so I’m pursuing a few ideas that have been kicking around for a while. Roots and influences are coming soon, but here’s something else – an analysis of a song I worked on several years ago. I can’t get hold of the writer, I don’t know whether he still makes music but I believe this is the greatest song NEVER released. Teeth and Claws by Sean Booth. I found away of adding annotations to YouTube video (a hugely impressive tool that will have implications in music education).
The annotations feature in YouTube is in beta I believe, so annotations only show up on the original YouTube page, so not embedded. Click in the video image to go to YouTube.

Shadowkat and Rhymefest

Shadowkat releases an album shortly entitled The Hurt Game. He is part of the hiphop team with Rhymefest; my North American representative (Jen at Stronghold in Toronto) made a connection with them a year or so ago.
It’s edgy, emotional and eclectic hiphop; we only provided a few 4 bar samples for the song (The Hurt Game) – a kind of library of ideas that fit the key, tempo and vibe of the track, but the strings get a pretty good feature, particularly towards the end of the track.
You can hear the song on The Nightsons myspace. Shadowkat is also active in the discussion about the future of the album and a new business model for the music industry. He writes passionately about this in his blog, as well as reflecting on his influences, a process that I know I will find useful in finding my own musical identity.
Click the banner to join the Nightsons MySpace community and experience THE HURT GAME:
Hold The Dagger!